Submitted for your befuddlement, a hare-raising tale about a confused critter named Frank.
That’s the name Lisa Nelson bestowed on the small wild brown cottontail rabbit that came hopping up to the family’s north Spokane home one day last month and began acting like he owned the place.
“Just looked like a Frank to me,” she said of why she picked the name. “I told Mike we just got the kids to go away. Maybe I’m being punished.”
Mike is Mike Nelson, Lisa’s husband of 38 years. They live in a cozy home that sits atop a scenic wooded hill. With them are their two large Labradors, Odie and Theo.
Under the normal scheme of things, a lone bunny wabbit would avoid this place like the business end of Elmer Fudd’s scattergun.
Rabbits are nervous by nature. Anyone who has ever been to a greyhound track knows about the passion mutts have for chasing the hare.
Frank, however, is definitely not your normal rabbit.
He not only made pals with the dogs, he hops all over them in a playful game of tag. Then he sleeps on top of the dogs when they all finally tucker out.
Frank’s affection extends to Mike and Lisa, too.
“He allows us to pet him and he sits next to my husband when he waters the lawn and follows me around all day,” said Lisa.
“Frank has also decided he would like to learn to fetch the tennis ball.”
Okay. I didn’t buy it, either.
Sure, I heard the story. I looked at the photographs she emailed me.
But you can do all sorts of crazy things to a photo these days. Look at Bruce Jenner. The whole thing seemed almost too good to be true.
I figured I’d drive all the way out to meet Frank and he’d conveniently be missing or he’d run away, or …
“Here Frank! Here Frank!”
Lisa called. Sure enough, just minutes after my arrival, the rabbit came scampering up as if on cue. Frank began hopping around my feet and cavorting with the dogs.
This was cartoon weird, and I told them so.
Mike agreed and then told me how this crazy situation began.
He was out minding his own business and tending to the yard. Suddenly, this small rabbit appeared. It started shadowing Mike as he walked around the yard.
“Once in awhile, he’d pee on me,” said Mike, grinning.
In some countries, that would count as a marriage proposal.
Anyway, Frank was nervous of the dogs at first and kept a wary distance from them. Then to the Nelsons’ amazement, Frank was rocking and rolling with them.
It gets weirder.
One day, a large wild turkey came gobbling onto the property. We all know how tough and ornery those things are.
Frank chased the bird all the way back down the driveway. “He’s turning out to be a better watch rabbit than our Labs,” offered Lisa.
As is my fallback position on all critter stories, I called my old friend Madonna Luers. She fields the public information duties for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
I called her recently after my lovely wife, Sherry, had been strafed by a dive-bombing hummingbird.
Madonna swung into official action by sending me a red giveaway pen with a little ornamental hummingbird on the top.
You rarely see this level of public service anymore.
Luers got right to the meat of this rabbit story, too.
“Good Lord. That is different,” she said astutely. “I blame the dogs. They’ve allowed the prey species to become their friends.”
Thank you, Madonna. Boy, I wonder what sort of rabbit-related trinket she’ll send me this time.
Luers did wonder at first if Frank might be a domesticated bunny that somehow got lost and found some new suckers to con.
I’m no expert in the habits of the leporidae.
Heck, I can barely follow the lackadaisicals on the City Council.
But I would stake my own expertise in animal husbandry that Frank is wild for two reasons.
Firstly, the Nelsons live in a fairly remote location and Lisa said none of her neighbors are missing any rabbits.
And second, have you ever heard of a tame rabbit who’d turn his cute nose up at a carrot or a piece of lettuce?
Frank wouldn’t touch any of the produce when Lisa tried once to feed him. He will only munch on the wild plants and grasses that grow in the yard.
But this is one brave bunny.
Take the time that Theo was chomping on a bone. Frank got little too close and the dog snapped his massive jaws at him.
Frank took off like a bottle rocket.
Mike told Lisa that Frank may be gone for good.
Much to his surprise, the rabbit “came right back, and they’ve obviously reconciled,” said Mike, adding “I think when he’s out with the dogs he feels safe.”
The Nelsons are trying to be realistic about all this. Though they won’t let Frank into their house, Lisa said they usually find the rabbit “sunning himself” on their front deck, waiting for Odie and Theo to come out of the house to play.
The Nelsons are not chumps.
They’re well aware of the fact that they live in an area populated with owls and hawks and coyotes …
So as much as they enjoy their new visitor, they both realize that nature doesn’t always turn out like the sappy ending in a Disney flick.
Mike sighed. “Predators gotta eat too.”
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